Graphic Witness: Hugo Gellert
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Hugo Gellert: Karl Marx' 'Capital' in Lithographs

The Value Transferred by Machinery to the Product

MACHINERY AND LARGE-SCALE INDUSTRY: the value transferred by machinery to the product

. . . The increased productivity of labor resulting from cooperation and the division of labor does not cost capital anything. These are the natural forces of associated labor.

In like manner, such natural forces as steam, water, etc., suitable for use in productive processes, cost nothing. But just as man needs lungs before he can breathe, so does he need something that is the work of human hands before he can consume the forces of nature for productive processes. A water-wheel is required for the utilization of the motor power of water, and a steam-engine is needed for the utilization of the elasticity of steam.

What applies to the forces of nature applies also to science. Once it has been discovered, the law that a magnetic needle is deviated in the field of an electric current, or the law by virtue of which a piece of iron round which an electric current is circulating becomes magnetized, costs never a penny. When, however, it is a question of utilizing these laws in telegraphy, etc., costly and elaborate apparatus is needed.

As we have seen, machinery does not exterminate tools. From being a dwarf implement in the hands of the human organism, the tool is expanded and multiplied to become the implement of a man-created mechanism. Capital now sets the worker to operate with a machine which guides its own tools, instead of setting him to work with hand tools.

If, therefore, it is clear at the first glance that large-scale industry must vastly increase the productivity of labor by the use of the enormous powers of nature and by the enlistment of natural science for the purposes of production, it is by no means self-evident that this increased productivity will not have to be paid for by an increased expenditure of labor.

Machinery, like any other constituent of constant capital, does not create any value, but yields up its own value to the product it serves to beget.

In so far as it has value, and therefore transfers value to the product, it forms an element in the value of that product. Instead of cheapening the product, it makes the product dearer in proportion to the value of the machine. It is plain that machines and systems of machinery, the characteristic means of labor utilized by large-scale industry, are incomparably more valuable than the means of labor used by handicraftsmen and in manufacture.

In the first place, I must point out that machinery, while always entering as a whole into the labor process, enters only to a partial extent into the value-creating process. It never adds more value than it loses, on the average, by wear and tear.

Thus there is a very great difference between the machine as a value-forming factor and as a product-forming factor. The longer the period during which the same machinery is repeatedly used in the same labor process, the greater is this difference.

We have, of course, seen that everything which can properly be called a means of labor or an instrument of production enters as a whole into the labor process; whereas into the value-creating process, it enters only piecemeal, in proportion to its daily average loss by wear and tear. But the difference between utilization and wear and tear is much greater in the case of machinery than in the case of the hand tool, and this for several reasons.

The machine, being made from more durable material, has a longer life; its use, being regulated by strictly scientific laws, permits of greater economy in the wear and tear of its constituent parts and in the expenditure of its means of consumption; and, lastly, its field of production is enormously more extended than that of a hand tool.

If we make allowance, both in the case of machinery and in the case of the hand tool, for their average daily cost, that is for the value that they transmit to the product by daily wear and tear and by the consumption of accessory materials such as oil, coal, etc., then we see that they do their work gratuitously -- like the natural forces that work without the assistance of human labor. Just as the productive working domain of machinery is much greater than that of the hand tool, so, proportionally greater, is the domain of its unremunerative service as compared with that of the hand tool. Not until large-scale industry becomes established, do men succeed in making the products of their past labor, their embodied labor, work gratuitously on a vast scale, like the forces of nature. . . .

The rate at which machinery transfers its value to the product being given, the amount of value so transferred depends upon the magnitude of value of the machinery itself. The less labor it contains, the less value does it impart to the product. The less of its own value it gives up, the more productive it is, and the more, therefore, does it approximate to the forces of nature in its services. But the production of machinery by machinery lessens its value proportionally to its extension and efficacy. . . .